- December 9, 2017
- Bob Quinn
Brian glanced at his watch as he paid for the jam. He really didn’t have time for this, but his mother adores home-made blackcurrant jam and this is the only place he can get it. It’s just a slight detour from the well-trodden route between the office and the homeplace, but even five minutes out of the way these days seems to cause havoc with his schedule.
“At least she’s still in her own home,” he thought as turned the ignition. “At 83, that’s not bad going.” Yet he dreaded the call from a neighbour or one of his sisters to say she had fallen. At least with Monica there at night there was some peace of mind. A few months ago, after his mother had a serious bout of pneumonia, the family got together and agreed to pay for a carer to spend the night in her home. They paid Monica €2,500 a month. Sometimes it seemed like a crazy amount of money, but then maybe that was the cost of peace of mind.
He and his sisters had been helping out their mother since his father had died young, nearly 30 years ago. But €30,000 a year? Brian did the calculation for the millionth time. Was it madness? The house wasn’t really suitable for her. His sisters were already talking about a stairlift. A nursing home would probably be a hell of a lot more expensive. Whatever way they looked at it, looking after Mum was going to be expensive.
He was barely back en route when the phone rang. It was Yvonne, his wife: “I was thinking that we should get Sheena some driving lessons for Christmas,” she said. “Yeah, good idea,” said Brian. “The sooner we get her on the road the sooner the pair of us can take the taxi plate down,” he laughed ruefully. “Speaking of which,” replied Yvonne, “don’t forget to pick Davy up from football on your way back”.
Young Davy won’t be far behind his sister in wanting to get behind the wheel, thought Brian as he totted up the costs that go with a teenager – two teenagers – learning to drive. Brian didn’t quite believe the outrageous car insurance costs bandied around in the pub among his friends, whose children were in their teens, like his. He resolved to check out some quotes at home that night. No, he’d get Yvonne to do it. He was going to have to spend a couple of hours prepping for that board meeting in the morning.
As he drove out of town in the fading winter light, Brian’s mind became consumed with thoughts that seemed to occupy way too much headspace these days.
Numbers flashed through his brain. I’m taking home €90k, and I have €540k in my pension. My costs for next year will be …then college fees for Sheena …His brows furrowed. He didn’t like the answer he was getting. He was about to run the calculations for the fifth time when a car coming in the opposite direction swerved into his path to avoid a pothole. Brian veered towards the ditch and just got control of the car before it left the road for the dark, woody hedge.
Breathing heavily, he pulled the car into a gateway and gathered himself.
Three weeks earlier he’d been at the funeral of a fellow he went to school with. That guy had been mowed down by a juggernaut on the M9, leaving a wife and three young children. At that same funeral, a mutual friend of theirs had told of a golfing buddy who had played a round of golf with him earlier in the year – and had won incidentally – but didn’t feel well afterwards and ended up going to the doctor a few days later. Three months later he was dead – riddled with cancer. He was 35. He became a Dad for the first time just eight months ago.
Pulling back out onto the road, Brian caught a glimpse of himself in the rear view mirror. More than a few greys, eyes getting hooded. The resemblance to his Dad was a shock. This is how Dad looked when he was my age, thought Brian. I am the age at which my dad died.
The sun was setting as Brian pulled into his mother’s house. He sat in the car for a moment, stuck on a thought.
What if I hadn’t been able to get out of that eejit’s way, or driven straight into a telephone pole on the way here?
Brian pulled out his phone. “Yvonne, do we have life assurance? Or is it just mortgage protection?”